Self-exploration: Are you in the right career as an archaeologist?

I was born 3.5 months early and I’ve spent a lot of the time wondering if this some how resulted in my impatience- something I’ve always struggled with. Martial arts helped fight my “inner demons” sure, but by uni and throughout I still wasn’t as patient or as tolerant of unexpected schedule changes and ‘annoyances’ as I would’ve liked to have been. When I first got into the field 6 months ago I questioned whether or not I was in the right field, or more accurately, if I could hack it as an archaeologist away from family and the familiarity of home and my comfortable schedule. I’ve found some struggles I didn’t expect while I was going through undergrad- the fast pace and unexpected schedule changes of Phase 1 work, loads of travel, and the instability of CRM low level jobs; but also this field of work has forced me to become more flexible and patient I think.

In the archives of Bill White’s blog that I’ve been reading there’s a post about whether or not archaeology is the right career for an individual. In it he challenges the reader to think about what they want from life and if archaeology as a career will fulfill those aspirations. Regardless of how I’ve felt about my career choice in these last 6 moths in the field I did some self-exploring and asked myself what I wanted from life and if the struggles I’ve yet faced are worth it in this field.

What do I want from life?

Challenge and adventure of some sort- such as travelling to new places, though it’s quite intimidating.

Quenching my seemingly never-ending curiosity- finding forgotten history would probably fit this bill.

Money to tithe and meet my needs with some left over for charity, and some wants- with smart planning this is possible I think.

A family?- I don’t really see myself settling down. If I find the right man, sure; and maybe we’d adopt kids. That, however, is the extent of my family-planning in my mere 24 years- I’ve met a number of archaeologists though that have made field work and family mesh well.

Giving back to the community/personal fulfillment- Even if I don’t publish reports as a low level tech what I and my crew members find directly influences the interpretation of the site and that interpretation can help the community understand history at the local, regional, and maybe even global scale. This in turn gives me some level of personal fulfillment.

Freedom to do what I want/go where I want, not being tied down- This is something I’ve come to appreciate the last few months. Usually I like stability, orgainisation, schedules, and structure. Archaeology can have this to an extent, but it’s largely self-created. I stick to my daily schedule whether or not I’m on a project and structure my life on the road as close to “off the road” life as possible, etc. So while this isn’t exactly what I would have dreamed up when thinking about my adult life I can find stability and structure amidst the unstable nature of this career.

The only issues I can think of with this career fitting me is that I haven’t yet sussed out a “work” schedule yet and the environmental/travel issues. With respect to the “work schedule”, I love that I can pick and choose what jobs to take and not take, but that means making a decision and I’m still nervous that I’m not always making the right decisions for developing and furthering my career. I also don’t know when it”s “okay” to take vacaetions and personal days and how taking these days off and not taking a job or asking for days off from a job- for a wedding/funeral/appointment etc.- will affect my career. Though I suppose these things I’ll understand better and more fully as I go along.

In regards to environmental issues and the inherent destructiveness of archaeology. I suppose while we can try and preserve as much as we can and not dig when we don’t have to, it’s ultimately up to those higher-ups and also par for the course and something I am going to have to accept and deal with.

In regards to travel issues. Because I was born so early I have vision problems so while I have a license I don’t like driving in unfamiliar places. It’s an incredibly necessary ability as a CRM shovelbum, but it’s a big stress for me and I haven’t yet acclimated to it in my first several months in the professional field. It’s both a blessing and curse that pretty much all of my jobs thus far have been minimal travel on my part with a good set of crew members that are cool with me tagging along to/from the hotel to home base/around town for the grocery store, etc.

So is CRM archaeology for me, I think YES. There are struggles sure, but per aspera ad astra: through the struggles you will reach the stars. I don’t know what God has planned for me in the fields of archaeology/personal training, but I’m sure these fields are where I’m supposed to be and I can’t wait to see what I can do in and through these careers.

I encourage others to also do a little self-exploration and ask yourself if you’re really getting out of life all that you want/need. And if not, do a little brainstorming and seek elsewhere.

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